Orioles manager Buck Showalter is downplaying his decision to bat Brian Roberts first tonight against Tampa Bay left-hander David Price, reminding reporters that Roberts had hit leadoff many times in the past.
It only happened once this season, back on July 12 against the Blue Jays. And it probably won’t happen on Tuesday, with the Rays starting right-hander Alex Cobb.
“Brian’s led off before. It’s not his first time in his career, obviously. I think he’s had some experience at it,” Showalter said.
“It just fits tonight. It’ll probably be a little bit different tomorrow. Tonight, with Price, I’m trying to space out the left-handers a little bit.”
Nick Markakis has batted seventh in eight career games before tonight, going 6-for-22 with two doubles and a home run. His last start came in 2007.
“Nicky will be hitting somewhere else tomorrow,” Showalter said. “Lucky to have guys that, the only place they don’t want to hit is 10th. Nick was going to hit sixth or seventh tonight against Price and Robby was going to hit first or ninth, maybe even eighth. We had to wait on a couple guys that were a little nicked up, make sure J.J. (Hardy) was OK.
“We’ve seen what Robby has brought from the bottom of the order and probably will again. We’ll see. It’s just kind of where we are tonight because Nate’s not playing. And I kind of like Nicky there, where we can space out the left-handers.
“You’ve got to figure out a way to get Price out of the game. Plus, their bullpen’s so good that you’ve got to kind of make sure that you can present a challenge for them. It has a lot more to do with the team we’re playing and the situation of the game. We do that a lot.”
Markakis doesn’t have an extra-base hit in his last 26 games. He did some early hitting again in the cage before taking batting practice on the field.
“The first thing I think about is how much we all trust Nick and the things he impacts our club with every day, more than just hitting a ball that allows you to get more than one base,” Showalter said. “Nicky’s a contributor and somewhere along the line, he’s always going to revert to his track record.
“Of the list of things that I can concern myself with, that’s way down the list, because I know he’s going to grind it. He’s been through this a few times. But they’ll always seek the level that they’re capable of, so it makes me think there are some really good things ahead for us and Nick in the next 39 games.”
Danny Valencia’s .700 (7-for-10) average is the highest of any player with 10 or more at-bats against Price.
The Orioles recalled Valencia from Triple-A Norfolk this afternoon.
“We were wanting to get back to four guys on the bench and Danny is a good fit for us right now,” Showalter said. “The good news is we had a lot of guys to pick from who were doing well down there. We just felt like Danny’s the best one at this point. He was posting up home and away, after bus rides. Danny did his part and we’re respectful of what he went down there and did. But the good news is, he’s not the only one who’s doing it.”
Jason Hammel threw off flat ground again today and will do the same on Wednesday before progressing to a mound on Friday.
Chris Tillman has won six straight home starts since June 14. According to STATS, since 1980, only Steve Stone (eight from June 17-Aug. 14, 1980) and Mike Mussina (seven from May 7-July 3, 1995) have won more consecutive games at home for the Orioles.
Today is Hardy’s 31st birthday.
For the Rays
Desmond Jennings CF
Ben Zobrist 2B
Evan Longoria 3B
Wil Myers RF
James Loney 1B
Yunel Escobar SS
Matt Joyce LF
Jose Molina C
Kelly Johnson DH
David Price LHP